Curriculum Theory

A Quickie with Michael Schiro

This is just a quick post to take a look at a brief quotation from a paper I was re-reading this week…

Because the curriculum ideologies represent ideal types abstracted from reality, and not reality itself, even though educators will be spoken of as believing or behaving in accordance with certain beliefs, it is difficult to find educators who exactly fit the characterizations; and even though the expressed thoughts and observable behavior of most educators approximate the characteristics of only one of the ideal types, many educators exist whose behavior is a combination of the characteristics of more than one ideal type. (Schiro, 2013, p. 13)

This has been a running theme with my approach to most articles/books which have attempted to define curriculum theory. So many want to label positions as “either/or”… you can’t be in favour of a traditional academic approach, and be learner-centric too. Yet why can’t I be in favour of learning the periodic table by wrote and using that knowledge in future, interactive, learner-centred, problem-solving lessons? And why can’t this learning be used to prepare a student for a role in society, akin to that envisioned by the Tyler Rationale, and thus contribute to social reconstruction?

When authors talk of one position or another, in a mutually exclusive fashion, I always think well it’s a bit more complicated than that. So the above quotation from Michael Schiro particularly resonated with me.

schiro_m_curriculum_theory_2nd_edIn this piece, Schiro identified what he thought of as the four main brands of curriculum in the early part of the 21st century—Scholar academic (SA), Social efficiency (SE), Learner centered (LC), Social reconstruction (SR)—and we have seen that these labels are as good as any for discussion purposes. However, in practice I would say that the reality is a bit more complicated than that.

Where, now, would anybody find a curriculum, and thus an educator, that really is purely one of these ideals? As Schiro mentions, a combination of these ideals seems the only practical application of curriculum theory.

Even the most traditional of programs, concentrating rigidly on didactic dissemination of academic topics (SA), will prepare its students for a role in society (SE), which will, eventually, help to shape that society in many ways both intended and unforeseen (SR).


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